Bell clowns around with ‘The Visitor’

Who: Bell Canada, with Leo Burnett for strategy and creative; Animals for production (Leigh Marling directing); Saints Editorial, Alter Ego, Fort York VFX and Eggplant Music and Sound for post-production; Media Experts for media.

What: “The Visitor,” a national campaign (English and French) promoting Bell’s Pure Fibre internet service, which continues to mine the horror theme first introduced with this year’s Super Bowl spot, “The Rental.”

When & Where: The campaign is live now, running across TV and online, as well as cinema.

Why: Every internet provider likes to tout its speed and reliability, making it difficult to communicate product differentiation within the category. “It’s hard to get people interested just by saying you’re the best,” said Leo Burnett ACD Jason Sweeney.

Like its Super Bowl predecessor, “The Visitor” is intended to engage and entertain viewers while also delivering a key product message that Pure Fibre offers superior service. The creative once again signals to viewers that because Bell Pure Fibre internet is so good, using anything else can be terrifying.

Horror provides a particularly rich vein of content, said Sweeney, who grew up surrounded by horror movie enthusiasts, and whose wife is a diehard fan of the genre. “I don’t personally love horror movies, but I know every single thing about them, so I can come up with probably another five horror-themed spots for Bell in the next hour,” he joked.

How: “The Rental” introduced the premise of life with cable internet being scary, but it was a slow burn that didn’t really show it until the end. The new spot, however, leans into the horror premise right away, opening on a man spotting a clown (representing cable internet) staring into his home. “Now that it’s out there and people are ready for this, we knew that this was our chance to dive into full-on horror right from the first frame,” said Sweeney.

Sweeney and creative partner Kyle Scotland batted around a series of horror-themed ideas before hitting on the idea of a clown-themed spot. Scary clowns have been popularized by book/movie franchises like It, and have also been mined for comedic effect by shows like Seinfeld.

“We wanted to have something that’s very quickly understood to be scary to most people, and the poor hard-done-by clown is one that kind of rose to the top,” said Scotland.

There’s no overt reference to Bell before the end of the spot, although its familiar blue and white colour scheme does appear as abstract art in the closing shot, when the man jolts awake from what viewers learn has been a nightmare about having cable internet.

“The nature of the scripts meant that it wasn’t even possible to be heavy-handed with the branding, because so much of the spot [takes place] in this not-quite-right world, which is obviously not something Bell wants to be associated with,” said Scotland.

Chris Powell